Teachers Can Deduct COVID-Prevention Supplies on Their Tax Return

Eligible educators can write off expenses for COVID-19 protective items that help stop the spread of the virus in the classroom.

picture of books, pencils and an apple on a teacher's desk
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There's some good news for teachers and other educators who are digging into their own pockets to buy COVID-related supplies for their classroom. They can deduct these out-of-pocket expenses on their tax return. The IRS has even issued guidance to help educators determine what is or isn't deductible as a "COVID-19 protective item."

According to the IRS, deductible supplies include personal protective equipment (PPE) and other items used to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the classroom. Among other things, the list includes:

  • Face masks;
  • Disinfectants;
  • Hand soap;
  • Hand sanitizer;
  • Disposable gloves;
  • Tape, paint or chalk to guide social distancing;
  • Physical barriers (e.g., clear plexiglass);
  • Air purifiers; and
  • Other items recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The deduction is available for up to $250 of unreimbursed cost of COVID-19 protective items paid by an eligible educator during the calendar year. An "eligible educator" is anyone who is a kindergarten through 12th grade teacher, instructor, counselor, principal, or aide in a school for at least 900 hours during a school year. The maximum deduction jumps to $500 for a married couple filing a joint return if both spouses are eligible educators – but not more than $250 each.

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Other expenses that were already deductible – such as books, supplies, and other materials used in the classroom – also count toward the $250 (or $500) limit. For 2021 tax returns, the deduction is claimed on Schedule 1, Line 11, of Form 1040 or 1040-SR. Returns for the 2021 tax year are due April 18, 2022 (April 19 for residents of Maine and Massachusetts).

Rocky Mengle
Senior Tax Editor, Kiplinger.com

Rocky was a Senior Tax Editor for Kiplinger from October 2018 to January 2023. He has more than 20 years of experience covering federal and state tax developments. Before coming to Kiplinger, he worked for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting and Kleinrock Publishing, where he provided breaking news and guidance for CPAs, tax attorneys, and other tax professionals. He has also been quoted as an expert by USA Today, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters, Accounting Today, and other media outlets. Rocky has a law degree from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in History from Salisbury University.